Graduating – Rebels Without a Cause
Last Saturday, I attended my third JHS graduation in Japan and also my most memorable to date. Having taught this year’s graduating 9th grade class since their first year in JHS and my first year in Japan, Saturday was an extra special day for all of us. Working in the city as opposed to working deep in the country can be a very unique experience, as the kids are often much more stronger and confident – necessary social skills in order to survive in a student body exceeding 800 students. Although Hachiman JHS has had a reputation of being a rough and tumble school, this year’s graduating class has made dramatic improvements in prefecture wide standardized test scores. Having taught this graduating class for almost 3-years, I believe I was able to make some great connections with the students and it was sad to see them move on – even the bad boys and bad girls. Very similar to graduations back home, there can be rebellions against school authority on the last day. Tipped over garbage cans, toilet papering the school, and spray-painting walls are not uncommon ways of saying “thanks for the memories” in the US; however, the way students express similar sentiments in Japan is different. At every JHS graduation I’ve been to, there are always some students that dress up in these unusual costumes, which I’ve been told symbolizes being in a gang and/or a show of power. Immediately following the formal ceremony, these students change their clothes and dye their hair to rebel against 3-years of school authority. These rebellious acts are harmless and amusing in what can be an otherwise very conservative graduation ceremony.